Last night, Chris Rock challenged the world-wide Oscar audience to give more opportunities to minority actors. The scandal he was addressing was the lack of minorities in the last two years of nominations. Several prominent black actors had boycotted the show and many white actors were just as mad. But Chris Rock took the middle road and decided to use humor to address these important issues. And I think he nailed it by cutting down on polite barriers in the show, making fun of everyone, and generally making people un-easy about the state of minority representation in the award show. Through humor he said what needed saying.
As bold as this was, the regular format for the Oscars suffered. The show lurched from un-easy humor to the Vice President introducing Lady Gaga’s song about campus sexual assaults. These are all important but the main theme of films as artistic reflections seemed to lose its balance between the artistic and the reflection. The art of film seemed to take a back seat, while the problems of unequalness of opportunity rightfully took front and center focus.
This does remind me of the times in my education where the school would be brought to a halt in order to do just that—discuss the important issues of the day. I remember when classes were directed to discuss an important school issue and the resulting conversations were more highly developed, because the institution took the time to draw a bigger circle and make more meaning out of a troubling development. So hats off to the Academy for taking this moment to call into question the role of minorities in film, in film awards and in our society. If we are to make a more just society our beloved institutions must help to lead the way especially by reflecting that change. From entertainment to education, wherever people look for guidance, we must lead the discussion, and not let the uncomfortableness delay the debate. Let the uneasiness be the right platform to help us all change. It certainly gave me food for thought and I thank them for doing it. Let’s make our institutions more reflective of the society we want to have.